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Film Listings, 8/30/18 – 9/6/18

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A.X.L.

SEE BOT RUN Shy outsider Miles (Alex Neustaedter) discovers and forms a bond with a top-secret robotic dog, in A.X.L. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GLOBAL ROAD ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Global Road Entertainment
  • SEE BOT RUN Shy outsider Miles (Alex Neustaedter) discovers and forms a bond with a top-secret robotic dog, in A.X.L.

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Park

In his feature-length debut, writer-director Oliver Daly helms this family-friendly sci-fi adventure about Miles (Alex Neustaedter), who discovers a top secret robotic dog named A.X.L., which stands for Attack, Exploration, Logistics.

Miles is a shy outsider, but after he and A.X.L. bond thanks to the "dog's" owner-pairing function, Miles and a new friend, Sara (Becky G), must protect A.X.L. from the scientists who created it and want to use it for evil purposes.

Unfortunately, the film is derivative, forgettable, and lacking any surprise. (100 min.)

—Glen Starkey

ALPHA

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it rated? Rent it

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

Albert Hughes (Menace II Society, From Hell, The Book of Eli) helms this adventure story set 20,000 years ago in the last Ice Age, about a young man named Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who, after a steppe bison hunting expedition with his clan goes awry, finds himself alone and struggling to survive. After he encounters a lone wolf, he begins to forge the bond that will develop canines into man's best friend.

This mostly charming fantasy adventure that imagines the first human-canine partnership will definitely appeal to adolescents. Its protagonist, 22-year-old Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, looks about 15 or 16 years old, and it's a coming of age story about the transition from boy to man.

After opening with the hunting expedition and its ensuing mayhem, the story cuts back in time to the moment Keda proves himself worthy of his first hunt and the ritual initiation that follows. We witness clan life, which is rough but romanticized in the same way we romanticize Native American tribal life. In fact, the film's language is a North American Indian dialect, subtitled in English.

Keda is the son of Tau (terrific Icelandic actor Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson), the clan's leader, but unlike his strong father, Keda "leads with his heart, not his spear," as Keda's mother Rho (Natassia Malthe) worries. She's concerned about her son's safety during his first hunt, and rightfully so. On the long journey to the hunting grounds, the clan is imperiled by saber-tooth tigers, among other predators, and the hunt itself is extremely dangerous as the herd of horned bison can easily trample and maim.

During the trip, we learn more about clan life and its beliefs and rituals. The second half of the film, which is slower in pace, is about Keda's alliance with Alpha (Chuck), the wolf, and their struggle for survival as Keda fights to make his way back to his clan.

There's some beautiful cinematography, but there's also a lot of computer-generated graphics, mostly of the prehistoric wildlife, which sadly is pretty clunky and pulled me out of the story. The tale itself is saccharine sweet and too sappy overall. Finally, having read some about the theoretical roots of the human-canine alliance, the story itself feels contrived. I'm usually a sap for films like these, but in this case it never suspended my disbelief.

The film's been getting better reviews than I'm giving it—84 percent on rottentomatoes.com—and audiences seem to like it too (79 percent), so if this sounds like your kind of film, it's probably worth a trip to the theater. I think the big screen will do better justice to the cinematography than the small, but honestly, the film has too many flaws for me. I'd say at most it's worth a rental at Redbox. (96 min.)

—Glen Starkey

BLACKKKLANSMAN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm, Stadium 10

PICK

Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Summer of Sam, Inside Man) directs this comedic crime biography about Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a black rookie police office in Colorado who, with the help of a white undercover counterpart (Adam Driver), becomes a member of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter.

What starts like a comedic spoof of a '70s Blaxploitation flick ends with a real-world visceral gut punch in this affecting new film by Spike Lee. It's his most lucid and potent comment on U.S. race relations since Do the Right Thing and doesn't let its (most likely and largely) white liberal audience off the hook. If the film's message is anything, it's that culturally we've progressed very little since the film's 1970s milieu. (135 min.)

—Glen Starkey

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Fair Oaks, Galaxy, Park

PICK

From director Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction, The Kite Runner) comes this live-action adaptation of A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh characters that poses this question: What happens to Christopher Robin after he grows up? After decades of separation, everyone's favorite Pooh bear makes a trek from the mythical Hundred Acre Wood into the real world to find out what's become of his old, lost friend.

In a nutshell, it's Winnie-the-Pooh meets Hook. In fact, the two films' protagonists and their arcs are virtually identical. The adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge!, Big Fish) is an overworked father who alienates himself from his wife (Hayley Atwell, Captain America: The First Avenger, Agent Carter) and daughter (Bronte Carmichael) by spending too much time at the office. In the same way Hook's adult Peter Pan had to return to Neverland to rediscover his long-lost inner child, so must Christopher to the Hundred Acre Wood. (120 min.)

—Caleb Wiseblood

CRAZY RICH ASIANS

LOVE AND MONEY New York economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, right) travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend, Nick Young's (Henry Golding), ridiculously wealthy family, in Crazy Rich Asians, based on Kevin Kwan's best selling novel. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.
  • Photo Courtesy Of Warner Bros.
  • LOVE AND MONEY New York economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, right) travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend, Nick Young's (Henry Golding), ridiculously wealthy family, in Crazy Rich Asians, based on Kevin Kwan's best selling novel.

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Bay, Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

PICK

Jon M. Chu directs this rom-com based on Kevin Kwan's best selling novel about native New Yorker and Chinese economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nick Young's (Henry Golding) ridiculously wealthy family. Once there, Rachel realizes Nick's the most eligible bachelor in Asia, and all the single women are out to undermine her.

While it doesn't stray far from the usual rom-com antics, the glitz and gaudy world of Singapore's oldest and richest families adds just the right amount of zip and pop to this fun and fancy flick.

Rachel is a cute and cunning New Yorker whose hunky boyfriend has managed to hide his family's massive wealth. When he talks her into a trip to Singapore for his best friend's wedding, Rachel gets clued in to the depth of his pockets by their swanky suite on the plane. That is only the beginning, and when the scope of the Young empire comes into focus, Rachel soon feels like a fish out of water. While she has friends she can trust such as her quirky college roommate Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) and Nick's cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan), it soon becomes clear she has more enemies than she does allies, including the matriarch of the family, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh).

Not all of her haters are as up front as Nick's mother, and while she has been included on many of the bride's pre-wedding adventures, it doesn't take long for the claws to come out from jealous single women who feel much more entitled to Nick's tender love and affection.

Crazy Rich Asians is a feast for the eyes. From over-the-top outfits and incredibly elaborate homes and parties, the audience is swept up in the ride as the world of Singapore and its richest families unfolds. These people are in each other's business in every single way, and Eleanor is bound and determined to keep Nick away from Rachel and get him back home for good.

Awkwafina is especially fun as Peik Lin Goh, her out-of-the-box zaniness only compounded by her weird larger-than-life family. With side stories and drama galore, this film manages to stay fun from beginning to end. While this type of film can be unoriginal at times, Crazy Rich Asians delivers on all fronts and manages to avoid the rom-com rut a lot of films fall into. While it may warrant a second watch at home, get to the theater to really feel the glitz and glamour this visual spectacular offers. (120 min.)

—Anna Starkey

THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS

PUPPET SLEAZE Sandra White (voiced by Dorien Davies) butters-up private dick Phil Philips (voiced by Bill Barretta), in the lowbrow Muppet satire The Happytime Murders. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FOCUS FEATURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Focus Features
  • PUPPET SLEAZE Sandra White (voiced by Dorien Davies) butters-up private dick Phil Philips (voiced by Bill Barretta), in the lowbrow Muppet satire The Happytime Murders.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

Brian Henson, son of Muppet Show creator Jim, directs this Muppet satire set in a world where humans and puppets coexist, though puppets are considered second-class citizens. When the cast of a popular 1980s puppet TV series is murdered one after another, disgraced former Los Angeles Police Department Detective Phil Philips (voiced by Bill Barretta), now a private eye, takes on the case. Soon he's forced to work with his old partner, LAPD Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), to find the killer.

It takes about five minutes for the novelty of puppets swearing, smoking, and generally acting just as terrible as human beings to wear off. The film's transgressive premise certainly has promise—after all, it raised the ire of Muppet fans who considered it insulting and irreverent—but instead of bucking expectations, The Happytime Murders plays right into the lowest of lowbrow common denominators.

You want a puppet porn shop that's filming "original content" to compete with the Internet, featuring an octopus "milking" a sprawled out and moaning cow? You got it ... unfortunately. You want a sex orgasm scene where Phil Philips paints the walls of his office white with ejaculate and that goes on and on? Yes, there's that too. There's even an homage to Basic Instinct, in which a female puppet in a sleek white dress flashes her privates—complete with purple bush hair—at the police officer interrogating her.

Sure, there are a few cringe-worthy laughs, but more often than not I found myself rolling my eyes and finding the whole affair joyless—just a degrading and pointless slog. Maybe those involved had fun making it, but it isn't much fun to watch.

McCarthy is pretty much phoning it in. Her Detective Edwards is a bitter jerk. Elizabeth Banks is wasted as Jenny, a human part of the old puppet show cast, who's now a stripper. Maya Rudolph as Philips' "Girl Friday" Bubbles is probably the most likeable, but Leslie David Baker as put upon Lt. Banning has a few worthy moments. Over all, though, the film is a bore—tedious, repetitive, and dull.

If you're determined to go, be very drunk or very high. If you want to see an irreverent puppet movie that actually has a point to make and is genuinely funny, see Team America: World Police (2004). (91 min.)

—Glen Starkey

HOTEL TRANSLYVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Rent it

Where's it showing? Sunset Drive-In

Join our favorite monster family as they embark on a vacation on a luxury monster cruise ship so Drac (voice of Adam Sandler) can take a summer vacation from providing everyone else's vacation at the hotel. It's smooth sailing for Drac's pack as the monsters indulge in all of the shipboard fun the cruise has to offer, from monster volleyball to exotic excursions, and catching up on their moon tans. But the dream vacation turns into a nightmare when Mavis (voice of Selena Gomez) realizes Drac has fallen for the mysterious captain of the ship, Ericka (voice of Kathryn Hahn), who hides a dangerous secret that could destroy all of monsterkind. (97 min.)

—Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation

INCREDIBLES 2

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Stadium 10

PICK

From writer/director Brad Bird (Ratatouille) comes the sequel Incredibles 2, 14 years after the original film premiered. Everyone's favorite family of superheroes is back in Incredibles 2—but this time Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight, leaving Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell) and Dash (voice of Huck Milner) to navigate the day-to-day heroics of normal life. It's a tough transition for everyone, made tougher by the fact that the family is still unaware of baby Jack-Jack's emerging superpowers. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, the family and Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) must find a way to work together again. (118 min.)

—Spencer Cole

KIN

BROTHERS Ex-con Jimmy (Jack Reynor, left) and his adopted brother Eli (Myles Truitt) must protect themselves from criminals, federal agents, and alien soldiers who are after a weapon Eli found, in the sci-fi actioner Kin. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LIONSGATE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Lionsgate
  • BROTHERS Ex-con Jimmy (Jack Reynor, left) and his adopted brother Eli (Myles Truitt) must protect themselves from criminals, federal agents, and alien soldiers who are after a weapon Eli found, in the sci-fi actioner Kin.

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

NEW

In their feature length debut and based on their short film Bag Man (2014), co-directors Jonathan and Josh Baker helm this sci-fi adventure about a teenager, Eli (Myles Truitt), who discovers an alien weapon, which he uses to protect himself and his recently released ex-con brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) from a gang of vengeful criminals led by Taylor Balik (James Franco), federal agents, and a cadre of alien soldiers that want the weapon back. (102 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE LITTLE STRANGER

DR. BOO! Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is called to a country estate to care for the Ayers family, only to discover their lives entwine with his own, in the horror-mystery The Little Stranger. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BLACK BEAR PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Black Bear Pictures
  • DR. BOO! Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) is called to a country estate to care for the Ayers family, only to discover their lives entwine with his own, in the horror-mystery The Little Stranger.

What's it rated? G

Where's it showing? The Palm

NEW

Lenny Abrahamson directs Lucinda Cox's horror-mystery script based on Sarah Waters' novel about Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson), who in 1948 is called to the crumbling Hundreds Hall, an estate where his mother once worked as a housemaid. There, he cares for the Ayres family—Mrs. Ayers (Charlotte Rampling) and children, Caroline (Ruth Wilson) and son Roderick (Will Poulter)—who are haunted, but by what? (111 min.)

—Glen Starkey

MAMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

PICK

Ol Parker (Now is Good, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) directs returning and new cast members in the sequel to the popular 2008 ABBA-centric musical-turned-movie Mamma Mia! In the first film, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is a bride-to-be who invites three of her mother Donna's (Meryl Streep) old flames to her wedding in an attempt to discover who her real father is. The sequel switches off between a time before and after the original film, focusing on both Sophie's new life attempting to carry on her late mother's hotel business and her mother's young life around the time of her pregnancy. (114 min.)

—Ashley Ladin

THE MEG

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10, Sunset Drive-In

Jon Turteltaub (Phenomenon, Instinct, National Treasure) directs Jason Statham as former Naval Captain Jonas Taylor, whose career and marriage were destroyed after he abandoned part of his crew during a failed exploration of the Mariana Trench in what he claimed was an attack by a 70-foot shark. Five years later, when a sub crew is stranded in what may be an attack by the supposedly long-extinct 70-foot Carcharodon Megalodon, Taylor is recruited to attempt a rescue.

Man, did I want this to be good. Action hero Jason Statham (The Transporter, The Italian Job, Crank) is a badass, Rainn Wilson (The Office, Juno, The Rocker) is usually hilarious, and who doesn't love a humongous shark? Sadly, The Meg is a steaming pile of chum.

Wilson plays Jack Morris, the moneyman behind Mana One, a research center trying to prove that under a freezing cloud of hydrogen sulfide at the bottom of the Mariana Trench lies an even deeper unexplored world. Soon his submersible crew—Taylor's ex-wife, Lori (Jessica McNamee); Toshi (Masi Oka); and The Wall (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson)—are stranded 6 miles below, so after encouragement by head researcher Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao) but against the advice of team physician Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor), Morris travels to Thailand to recruit Jonas Taylor, who now spends his days drunk on beer while simultaneously retaining his amazing six-pack abs.

Taylor agrees to attempt the rescue after he learns his ex-wife Lori is on board, but he almost immediately falls for Zhang's daughter Suyin (Bingbing Li). Long story short, his rescue opens a hole in the hydrogen sulfide cloud, and up swims a shark so big it can bite a whale in half.

What's not to like, right? Well, first of all, the film's minor attempts at humor fall flat. If this film had approached its story with the sort of campy hilarity of, say, Piranha 3D (2010), it might have been salvaged. Instead, it plays it straight, and another movie—2010's Deep Blue Sea with Thomas Jane—already told a similar story better.

A good shark movie should make you afraid to go in the ocean and play on your irrational fears. The Meg just makes me afraid to go back to the multiplex, at least until we get closer to Oscar season. (113 min.)

—Glen Starkey

MILE 22

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom, Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day) helms this action thriller about James Silva (Mark Wahlberg), an elite CIA operative tasked with extracting Li Noor (Indonesian action star Iko Uwais), an asset with vital information, through 22 miles of hostile territory.

Berg and Wahlberg have teamed successfully before. Lone Survivor was terrific, Patriots Day was emotionally potent, and Deepwater Horizon was solid entertainment. Hence, despite what sounded like a hackneyed plot, I had hope that this fourth collaboration would yield some better-than-average action. I was wrong. Mile 22 takes a tired, eternally rehashed storyline and tries to spruce itself up with a lead character whose backstory and apparent ADD supposedly makes him interesting. Instead, Silva is just an unlikeable asshole.

Mile 22 also feels false. Berg and Wahlberg's other films were based on real events, and while they may have been accentuated and dramatized beyond reality, there was a level of plausibility that isn't apparent here. Yes, this film is better than most straight-to-video fare, but only because it has better actors, director, and budget. Story-wise, Mile 22 is a clunker. (95 min.)

—Glen Starkey

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-FALLOUT

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

PICK

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun, Jack Reacher, Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation) helms this action-packed sixth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, starring Tom Cruise as super spy Ethan Hunt. The new film ties together narratives and characters from earlier films, including IMF (Impossible Mission Force) team members Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Hunt's Rogue Nation love interest and fellow spy Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), and Hunt's ex-wife Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan) from Mission: Impossible III.

In addition to a series of amazing action sequences the film manages to conjure up emotional elements as well, since Hunt must protect both Julia and Ilsa and prove to the powers-that-be, that saving both the one and the many is the real job of the IMF. It also culminates in the mother of all action finales. If you like this series, Fallout is a worthy successor. (147 min.)

—Glen Starkey

OPERATION FINALE

THE ARCHITECT Adolph Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), the man behind Hitler's "Final Solution," hides in Argentina after the war but finds himself the target of Israeli agents, in the historical drama Operation Finale. - PHOTO COURTESY OF METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER
  • Photo Courtesy Of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • THE ARCHITECT Adolph Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), the man behind Hitler's "Final Solution," hides in Argentina after the war but finds himself the target of Israeli agents, in the historical drama Operation Finale.

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

NEW

Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Golden Compass, The Twilight Saga: New Moon) directs Matthew Orton's historical script about a team of Israeli agents led by Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), who hunt down and bring to justice Adolph Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), the architect of Hitler's "Final Solution." (123 min.)

—Glen Starkey

PUZZLE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

See Split Screen. Δ

New Times movie reviews were compiled by Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and others. You can contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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